Kerry to meet Hague for Syria talks

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US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with his British counterpart William Hague on Wednesday to discuss Syria as Washington struggles to organize a peace conference to end the conflict.

Plans to bring together the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition at talks in Geneva have so far failed to come to fruition, and Hague at the weekend warned regime gains on the ground raised new hurdles.

President Barack Obama has asked his national security team, which includes Kerry, to “look at all options” to end the fighting, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated Tuesday, adding however there would be no American “boots on the ground.”

Kerry postponed a visit to the Middle East this week to attend meetings on Syria in Washington, amid reports that the Obama administration is thinking of ending its refusal to arm the Syrian opposition.

He is also trying to organize peace talks, but Psaki stressed “we’re not going to have the conference just to have the conference.

“We’re going to have the conference to move forward towards a political transition, and we want to make sure the environment is right to do just that.”

Assad’s forces, backed by thousands of Hezbollah fighters, have been emboldened by recent gains on the ground against the opposition, and Hague said Sunday that it was “worrying and depressing” that the so-called Geneva talks were not taking place this month.

“The regime has gained ground on the ground, again at the cost of huge loss of life and the indiscriminate use of violence against the civilian population,” Hague told BBC television.

“That makes the Geneva conference harder to bring about and to make a success. It makes it less likely that the regime will make enough concessions in such negotiations, and it makes it harder to get the opposition to come to the negotiations.”

The French foreign ministry on Tuesday also warned that the Syrian conflict is at a “turning point” after the fall of Qusayr last week, and with regime seeking to reclaim Aleppo.

“There are lessons to be drawn from what happened in Qusayr and what is happening in Aleppo,” said ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot. “We cannot leave the opposition in the current state,” he said.

Both France and Britain have already called for nations to start arming the Syrian opposition to help tip the balance of power on the ground.

Meanwhile, Psaki said the United States would be open to the idea of taking in refugees from Syria after a UN appeal seeking a safe haven for the most vulnerable.

“The preferred option for refugees is typically going back to their home country when it is safe,” Psaki told reporters.

But since the UN had made an appeal “the United States is prepared to respond and will encourage others... to do the same.”

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